An archive of this Sojourner's Journey – Reflections, book reviews, and other random thoughts

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Book Review: An Elegant Facade

cover86130-mediumAbout the Book:

Lady Georgina Hawthorne has always known she must marry well. After years of tirelessly planning every detail of her debut season, she is poised to be a smashing success and have her choice of eligible gentlemen.

With money and powerful business connections but no title, Colin McCrae is invited everywhere but accepted nowhere. He intends to marry someday, but when he does it will not be to a shallow woman like Lady Georgina, whose only concerns appear to be status and appearance.

But beneath her flawless exterior, Georgina’s social aspirations stem from a shameful secret she is desperately trying to keep hidden–and that Colin is too close to discovering. Drawn to each other despite their mutual intent to avoid association, is the realization of their dreams worth the sacrifices they’ll be forced to make?

My Thoughts:

An Elegant Facade is the second book in the Hawthorn House series.  (Or actually the third if you count the free novella, A Lady of Esteem).  You could read An Elegant Facade as a stand alone novel, but I would recommend reading it with the rest of the series.

I found the novel to be absolutely brilliant.  Kristi Ann Hunter took a risk and began by taking you halfway back into the events of her previous book (A Noble Masquerade) and telling parts of the tale again from another character’s point of view.  This could have come across as cumbersome or repetitive, however, it was so skillfully written that I found it fresh and inventive.  In fact, the author did something that is rarely done, she took a character that I had a mild dislike toward and made her someone that I really cared about.

All in all, I think that this story was a fabulously entertaining read that any fan of faith based Regency Romance should not miss.

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I was given a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Book Review: Playing the Part

 About the book:

“Turano, known for her delightfully humorous tales, has done it again.”–Booklist starred review of In Good Company

Lucetta Plum is an actress on the rise in New York City, but must abandon her starring role when a fan’s interest turns threatening. Lucetta’s widowed friend, Abigail Hart, seizes the opportunity to meddle in Lucetta’s life and promptly whisks her away to safety at her eligible grandson’s estate.At first glance, Bram Haverstein appears to be a gentleman of means–albeit an eccentric one–but a mysterious career and a secret fascination with a certain actress mean there’s much more to him than society knows.While Lucetta has no interest in Abigail’s matchmaking machinations, she can’t ignore the strange things going on in Bram’s house and the secrets he hides. As the hijinks and hilarity that Bram, Lucetta, and their friends are swept into take a more dangerous turn, can they accept who they are behind the parts they play in time to save the day?”Turano has crafted another feisty female protagonist who defies the mores of her time, in this case 1882 New York. This provocative novel brims with the author’s trademark humor and subtle romantic style laced with faith.” —Library Journal“The author will have readers laughing out loud and rooting for their favorite characters to fall in love. Lucetta is a plucky, admirable character filled with wit and intelligence. You will want to catch up with the first two books and then put this fast-paced, engaging novel on your must-buy list.”–RT Book Reviews Top Pick

My Thoughts:

I did laugh out loud, more than once.  Turano is my new favorite author to turn to when I really need a good laugh and Playing the Part did not disappoint.

This is the third book in a series and while you could read it without reading the other books first you will miss out on some of the character development that happened in previous novels.

Book One was: After A Fashion

Book Two was: In Good Company

The whole series was delightful.

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I received a free digital unedited proof of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.


Up and Running Again

Hello.

I’ve been unable to get my blog to update new posts for awhile now, but it looks like I’ve found a work around…so new posts coming soon.  Stay tuned. 🙂

 


Book Review: A Worthy Pursuit

A teacher on the run. A bounty hunter in pursuit. Can two enemies learn to trust each other before they both lose what they hold most dear?

Stone Hammond is the best tracker in Texas. He never comes home empty-handed. So when a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, Stone eagerly accepts.

Charlotte Atherton, former headmistress of Sullivan’s Academy for Exceptional Youths, will do anything to keep her charges safe, especially the orphaned girl entrusted to her care. Charlotte promised Lily’s mother she’d keep the girl away from her unscrupulous grandfather, and nothing will stop Charlotte from fulfilling that pledge. Not even the handsome bounty hunter with surprisingly honest eyes who comes looking for them.

When Miss Atherton produces documentation that shows her to be Lily’s legal guardian, Stone must reevaluate everything he’s been led to believe. Is she villain or victim?

Then a new danger forces Charlotte to trust the man sent to destroy her. Stone vows to protect what he once sought to tear apart. Besides, he’s ready to start a new pursuit: winning Charlotte’s heart.

My Thoughts:

Witemeyer shows great insight into human nature and uses that knowledge to build layered and believable characters, while keeping the story light and active.  I especially appreciated the way that the twin themes of trust and truly taking the time to see and understand people developed throughout the story.  While there will be no surprises in this happily ever after tale, it was an enjoyable book and well worth reading.

You can order A Worthy Pursuit through this link and your Amazon purchases will provide support to this blog and my ministry.  See sidebar for more details.

I received a free, pre-release, unedited digital copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

 


Journey – January 21

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them.” Matt. 6:1

These words in Matthew call me back to the question: Where is value found?

Jesus cautions us about doing our acts of righteousness to be seen by men. Don’t give to be noticed. Don’t pray to be seen. Don’t fast to call attention to yourself. Don’t dress to be admired. Don’t make the things of this earth your primary treasure. Instead look to the Father who sees the secret things, the inner things.

If I gain my value from the world then I must be seen by the world. I must work harder. I must do more. I must prove myself valuable.

But if I gain my value from Christ, if I rest in His love for me, if I trust that He both sees and delights in me, then the compulsion to perform for men is broken. I can love – really love – from the heart because I know LOVE. I can act, not out of selfish ambition or self-serving need to be valued, but knowing that I am valued I can give all that I have with no need of recognition or admiration or even notice.

When I know that I am loved, I can give and serve with no need to please the world or be accepted by the world. I can love and give and serve from a place of freedom.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance that I spend time basking in the love of God. Like the sun it must seep deeply into my skin and warm me to the core. This is not self-indulgence. This is true nourishment. I must make time to listen to the voice of God a non-negotiable in my life. I need to hear the voice that calls me Beloved, the voice that says that I am chosen and dearly loved, that I am seen and known and delighted in.

YouAreLoved

I am such a forgetful creature. If I do not find ways to remind myself of the love of God then I will find myself engaged in self-serving action, trying to gain my value from the world.

But if I guard my heart, protect time to simply enjoy the presence of God, to come away and listen to the voice of Love, then I can be at rest in my soul and the living water can flow through me without impediment. I can live and love and serve with freedom, not needing any other validation.

Knowing that I am seen and dearly loved changes everything.

You too are seen and dearly loved.

He invites you to freedom. Freedom to love. Freedom to serve. Oh, dear friends, draw near to hear the voice that would call you Beloved and find rest for your soul.


Traditions (Enchiladas, Spoonbread and More)

Christmas is a time when we think about traditions.  The memories mix with the moment and nostalgia dodges our steps.  This week nostalgia filled the air of my rental home here in Wales with the smells of green chili chicken enchiladas, sweet corn spoonbread and peppernuts.  Oh the joys of diversity.  My California upbringing and my Mennonite heritage collide at Christmas and I can hardly begin to celebrate without this delightful mix of culture and flavor.  We’ll leave the peppernuts for another day, because today, by popular demand, I want to share the recipes for this weeks “traditional” Christmas meal.  Honestly, tamales would be more traditional (Teen Challenge used to sell them as a Christmas fundraiser), but I’m much better at making enchiladas.

Yummy

Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients:

  • 7 ounces of green chilies (rinsed, chopped and seeded)
  • Small Onion
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp leaf oregano/crushed
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cilantro
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour (I use a gluten free mix)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream or sour cream
  • 1/4 cup (approx) Cooking Oil
  • 8 large Tortillas – (I use gluten free homemade flour or corn tortillas)
  • 3 to 4 Chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack or Mozzarella cheese

Method:

  • Cook chicken in olive oil on stove top or in slow cooker. Shred finely. Set aside. (For extra flavor add an extra 3 to 7 ounces of green chilies to the chicken while cooking)
  • Make Green Chili sauce: Saute small diced onion in olive oil or butter until clear or golden brown. Add  green chilies.. Add cumin, salt, oregano, pepper and cilantro. Cook 1 minute.
  • Stir in flour until well combined. Cook 1 minute.
  • Stir in chicken broth and heavy cream. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • In another pan bring cooking oil to a medium heat. Do not overheat – it should not smoke. Add tortillas to oil and quickly turn them over and remove them to your baking dish. (This softens the tortilla and keeps it from tearing when rolled)
  • Place tortilla in the pan. Add meat, sauce and some of the grated cheese. (Reserve enough sauce to pour over top when done) Roll the tortilla and continue until the pan is filled.
  • Cover with remaining grated cheese and the rest of the liquid mixture. Cook in oven on low heat until warmed through and cheese is melted.
  • If desired (and I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t) Top with homemade guacamole before serving

Sweet Corn Spoon Bread

(Recipe credit: Lee Ann Clark = Allrecipes)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 1/3 cup masa harina
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 TBSP heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Method:

  • In a medium bowl beat butter until it is creamy.  Add the Mexican corn flour (Masa Harina) and water and beat until well mixed.
  • Using a food processor, process thawed corn, but leave chunky.  Stir into the butter mixture.
  • In a separate bowl, mix cornmeal, sugar, cream, salt and baking powder.  Add to flour mixture and stir to combine.
  • Pour batter into an ungreased 8×8 baking pan,  Smooth batter and cover with aluminum foil.
  • Place pan into a 9×13 baking dish filled a third of the way with water (water bath)
  • Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven F (175 C) oven for 50-60 minutes.  Allow to cool 10 minutes.
  • Use an ice cream scoop for easy removal from pan.

Journey Oct 8th

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” 1 John 4:16a

In one of the conversations that I had recently, the question was raised: “Is love reliable?”  And as I thought about 1 John 4:16, I pondered the question from a different angle; one that requires more than a yes or no answer.  So I decided to ask the question: “What is Love reliable for?”

God is love and God is faithful.  He is an immovable, steadfast and eternal rock.  He doesn’t change like shifting shadows.  These are things that I know.

God is reliable to transform me into His image, to finish the work that He has begun in me.  His love can be relied upon to live in me by the power of the Holy Spirit, to keep me abiding in Him, to fellowship with me in the Trinitarian dance.  He is reliable to hold and keep my soul eternally safe in Christ Jesus. He can be relied upon to meet me in the posture of a bridegroom calling me His Beloved.  His love can be relied upon to seek me out when I run away and to embrace me every single time that I return.  These are truths that I rely upon.

However, there are some things that Love is not reliable for.  God’s love cannot be relied upon to give me whatever idols my heart may crave.  He cannot be relied upon to allow me to build upon a sandy foundation or to place my hope or security anywhere apart from Him.  As a good Father He gives me what is good and best and right for my soul within His Kingdom and He refuses to be swayed by my manipulations and justifications.  He cannot be relied upon to surrender His throne to me.

I think of Isaiah 53:11: “After the suffering of his soul he will see the light of life and be satisfied.”  Even the Son suffered deeply and yet He saw the end result of the sacrifice and was satisfied.  He knew and relied on the goodness of God even in the midst of incredible, personal suffering. He trusted in the Father’s sovereign will and plan as both loving and good. He trusted and relied on the Father’s love.

I long to be like Jesus in this way: to both know and rely on the love God has for us at all time in all seasons.

 


Book Review: The Heart’s Pursuit

About the Book:

A jilted bride desperate to save her family from ruin.
A bounty hunter seeking vengeance for a ravaged past.
An arduous trek toward justice–or redemption.

Silver Matlock and Jared Newman know traveling together is a bad idea. Bad for Silver’s already tarnished reputation in her small Colorado town. Bad for bounty hunter Jared’s secret, single-minded mission for revenge. But Silver is determined to track down the rogue who left her at the altar and stole the last remnant of her father’s fortune. And Jared’s in a hurry to hunt down the murderer who destroyed his family–even if Silver is too distractingly beautiful for comfort.

The pair takes off over mountain and desert, past bleak homesteads and raw mining towns, hot on the trail of the two villains who took what wasn’t theirs to take. Soon supplies dwindle, secrets emerge, and suspicion leave Silver and Jared at odds when they need each other most. To confront an enemy deadlier than desert rattlesnakes and rocky cliffs, Silver and Jared must learn to forgive and trust and face the question they haven’t dared voice: What happens next?

My Thoughts:

The Heart’s Pursuit was a quick, fun read.  I’ll warn you that you have to suspend reality just a bit and let your imagination lead.  It’s not practical to imagine that in the day and age of the story that a single woman would spend months traveling across the country with a single man with the intent of returning to her family and resettling into her old life.  Even in the old west there were social understandings that were not easily thrown aside.  If your imagination can get you past the improbable aspects of the story then I expect that you will enjoy the tale.

The characters were engaging and even though the villain was truly evil, his crimes were presented without all the gory details that can make a story dark.  There were also some skillful elements in the storytelling where the author fed the reader details that set up false assumptions and yet those false assumptions still led the reader in the direction that the story was heading while also allowing for surprising twists to the plot.

All in all, The Heart’s Pursuit was an entertaining western adventure and romance.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

 


Day #10: One Hit Wonder

The 70s – seriously, I can’t help but laugh.

Disco never dies.  Right?


Journey 10-28-13

“ Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” Rev. 21:5

As I’ve been walking in a new beginning, a new life in a new place, I’ve been thinking about the act of beginning.  Specifically I’ve been thinking about the risk it requires and the way it can deepen faith, trust and hope.  As followers of Christ every day we wake up and find fresh mercy and grace for our journey — if only we will open our hands and our hearts to receive it.  He gives us our daily bread, fresh manna, just enough for today’s journey.

The “with God” life requires a constant state of new beginning.  We are faced with a continual stream of choices.  We must choose to trust in His grace each time we stumble, each time we fall. We must choose over and over again to humble ourselves, to walk with one another in love.  There is coming another beginning in a new heaven and a new earth.  But even here and now, today, Christ is resurrecting and re-creating.  He offers us new beginnings.  He is making all things new.  He is making us new.

Where in your life are you are being called to a new beginning?

——–

Here is a quote that I’ve been turning over in my head about the risks and rewards of new beginnings.

“A beginning is ultimately an invitation to open toward the gifts and growth that are stored up for us. … There can be no growth if we do not remain open and vulnerable to what is new and different.  I have never seen anyone take a risk for growth that was not rewarded a thousand times over. There is a certain innocence about beginning, with its excitement and promise of something new.  But this will emerge only through undertaking some voyage into the unknown.  And no one can foretell what the unknown might yield.  There are journeys we have begun that have brought us great inner riches and refinement; but we had to travel through dark valleys of difficulty and suffering.  Had we known at the beginning what the journey would demand of us, we might never have set out.  Yet the rewards and gifts became vital to who we are.” John O’Donohue


Journey 6-29-13

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” John 7:37b

Such simple words.  Such simple action.  And yet, sometimes it seems the hardest thing to do.  Go and do seems a much easier command.  And we are told to go, but only after we come.

I’m reading Alan Fadling’s An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus Rhythms of Work and Rest.  In it I found an interesting reflection on the Great Commission from Matthew 28:16-20, quoted from Paul Jensen.

“There are two commissions here, an inner and an outer one.  First Jesus directed his disciples to the mountain – there to meet him, see him, experience his unconditional love, especially in their doubt (or perhaps hesitation.)  Second, in the context to their obedience to the inner commission, he gave them the outer commission to make disciples of all nations.”

How many times do I try to go and do before I come and drink?  I find that I am constantly drinking from other fountains and they leave me thirsty.

John 7:37-39 has been my meditation for the last two weeks.  I’m memorizing the words and tucking the idea down deep in my heart.  A hundred times a day it seems I hear the Spirit whisper this invitation back to me.  I’m striving to be productive and I hear “Come and drink.”  I’m self-focused and I hear “Come and drink.” I’m frustrated with circumstances and I hear “Come and drink.” I’m weary and I hear “Come and drink.”  I’m overwhelmed and I hear “Come and drink.”  I’m relaxing and still I hear the invitation, “Come and drink.”  And the more often I hear that whispered invitation the more I want to come to Jesus and drink.

I want to drink deep of the living water so that I can live an overflowing life.  Jesus goes on to say that streams of living water will flow from within the one who believes in him, referring to the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.  I want that.  I want presence and work of the Spirit of God to overflow from my heart, permeating my relationships and impacting my work.

It starts when I come to Jesus and drink.

 


What are you reading?

I am blessed to have the privilege of interacting with some gifted writers.  It’s always so much fun to read books when you’ve gotten even a small peak behind the scenes during the creative process. So here’s a quick “shout out” for you about them.

1. I finished my first read-through of Larry Crabb’s book Fully Alive and I have my journal and pen ready for a second read-through.  It’s really wonderful to take the ideas and truths that we interacted with through New Way Ministries School of Spiritual Direction and study them more fully as they are presented in this book.

One of many “favorite” quotes:

“‘Spiritual formation’ has become such a comfortably common phrase in our Christian vocabulary that I wonder if we’ve lost sight of what it would actually mean to have Jesus formed in us. Do we really believe we’re being spiritually formed if we experience the presence of Jesus without being empowered to relate like Jesus? Is effectiveness in ministry the best measure of maturity? Or is connection in community, a kind of connection that at least dimly reveals the relational life of the Trinity, a more reliable indicator that Christ is being formed in us?”

~Larry Crabb in Fully Alive, p. 92

2. I’ve  barely begun Alan Fadling’s An Unhurried Life, but I’m already fully engaged.  As with Fully Alive, I’ve been interacting with Alan’s reflections on the unhurried life of Jesus for awhile now and I’m thankful to have the thoughts in my hands in the form of a book.  You can download the first chapter for free here.

3. Last but not least, T.J. MacLeslie’s new book Designed for Relationship is now available on Amazon (paperback and kindle). My copy is in the mail and I’m looking forward to reading it. All profits from the book sales go to ministry through PIONEERS.

Here’s the book summary:

Do you long for more? Jesus came to give us abundant life, but for many this vision remains tantalizingly out of reach. But there is hope. In the midst of our hectic lives, the infinite God of this universe invites us into a real relationship with Him-one that goes far beyond mere religious activity. But what does that look like? Where do we begin? Birthed out of real-world experiences, Designed for Relationship is full of practical resources to help you, and those to whom you minister, discover new avenues toward intimacy with God. Come, experience more of Him. We were created to love God with all we are. We were designed for relationship.

What are you reading these days?  Any recommendations?


Blog host issues

Sorry my blog has been up and down over the last week.

I’m having some issues with a recent upgrade and don’t have the time to invest in investigation right now.

So I chose this as a temporary theme.  New blog appearance coming soon…


Thanks for traveling with me on my journey


Tonight

Every night for a week now I’ve told myself I’m going to watch a movie, kick back and relax a bit.

Yet when evening arrives my heart beats wide awake.  I find myself emptied of desire for lights, noise and clutter.  I discover my cup overflowing with the rest that keeps your eyes wide open scanning the horizon for the finger of God.

Last night I spent half the night lying on the floor of my living room, listening to the sound of the rain, imaging the stars behind the cloud cover, reveling in the fact that the north wind chilled my nose even as I inhaled fresh scents of pine and fall.

The silence unwinds in the same way the fall wind quickens.

The demands of Chronos too often hold these transcendent moments captive.  So tonight I set aside my keyboard and stretch out below the window to watch the trees dance as if moving to the music of the Spirit of the One True God.

I breathe deep.

I breathe.


What If?

I read a blog last week and I can’t get it out of my mind.  I’ve gone back to read it practically every day since.  I’m pondering “What If?”

Read the post at: http://michaelwarden.com/blog/what-if-an-exercise-in-possibility/


Journey 8-25-10

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

I’ve been reading David Platt’s Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream, (which I highly recommend).

In it he states, “We live in a culture that has a dangerous tendency to disconnect the grace of God from the glory of God.*

This brought 1 Peter 2:9 to my mind.

We are blessed. Grace is lavished on us. We are made heirs of Christ. God’s own treasured possession. We’ve become royalty. We have been specially selected by the God of the universe.

We have been blessed.

Yet, we haven’t been blessed in a vacuum. 1 Peter 2:9 contains a conjunction connecting our blessings with our responsibilities. We are to declare the praise of God. We are to reflect his wonderful light. We have been called out of darkness, but so many are still prisoners. The blessings of God and our position in His family come with a responsibility to declare the praise of God!

Platt states, “Because he [Paul – Romans 1:14-15] is owned by Christ, he owes Christ to the world. Every saved person this side of heaven owes the gospel to every lost person this side of hell. We owe Christ to the world – to the least person and the greatest person, to the richest person and the poorest person, to the best person and the worst person. We are in debt to the nations.”

*Sorry, you’ll have to get the book to find out the context of the quote.


Home Again

Camp was great!  I’ll write all about it later.  I’m exhausted, but glad to be home.

You can check out my camp pictures on Flickr.

I’ll be back to blogging again soon.


Indulgences are Back

This is an interesting article.  Many mainstream church denominations these days are embracing un-Biblical beliefs, like appointing gay clergy.  Here is another sign of spiritual deception re-asserting itself in a new (and very old) way.  Set aside “Grace through Faith”, you can earn God’s favor.  Doesn’t anyone read Romans anymore? 

Read excerpts of the article below:

20indulgence_600

“Bishop Announces Plenary Indulgences.”

In recent months, dioceses around the world have been offering Catholics a spiritual benefit that fell out of favor decades ago — the indulgence, a sort of amnesty from punishment in the afterlife — and reminding them of the church’s clout in mitigating the wages of sin.

The fact that many Catholics under 50 have never sought one, and never heard of indulgences except in high school European history (Martin Luther denounced the selling of them in 1517 while igniting the Protestant Reformation)

According to <Roman Catholic> church teaching, even after sinners are absolved in the confessional and say their Our Fathers or Hail Marys as penance, they still face punishment after death, in Purgatory, before they can enter heaven. In exchange for certain prayers, devotions or pilgrimages in special years, a Catholic can receive an indulgence, which reduces or erases that punishment instantly, with no formal ceremony or sacrament.

There are partial indulgences, which reduce purgatorial time by a certain number of days or years, and plenary indulgences, which eliminate all of it, until another sin is committed. You can get one for yourself, or for someone who is dead. You cannot buy one — the church outlawed the sale of indulgences in 1567 — but charitable contributions, combined with other acts, can help you earn one. There is a limit of one plenary indulgence per sinner per day.

BTW – what’s the difference between buying one and making a charitable contribution, really?

You can read the whole article here.


Hidden in the Stimulus Plan

I think everyone should be aware of this.  Read the full article at the link below and respond to your representatives as you feel led.

Attention, Older Americans: The Stimulus Plan Could Kill You 

(If the link doesn’t work for you then cut and paste the following in your browser: http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/2009/02/attention-older-americans-stimulus-plan.html)


Journey – Some Trust In

“Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, be we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” Psalm 20:6-7

Often, I find it easier to give lip service to trusting in God than to actually have to live out that trust. This verse starts out, “Now I know.” Knowledge is one thing. I know that God is trustworthy. I know that God is faithful. I know that He has promised to supply all of my needs. I know…. But some days, taking that knowledge from head to heart to action is hard. Because trusting in God isn’t just something to give lip service to. It is a choice. I must choose to not worry when my account is empty and bills are plentiful. I must choose not to dismay when facing trials that I can’t change. I must choose to trust God’s purpose in the midst of loss. I’m learning, but I’m nowhere near where I want to be in this area of my life. But trust is not only a choice, it is a result. Trust validated builds more trust. As I reach out, trusting God with my needs and my sorrows He never leaves me. He continues to hold me up and He answers me from heaven. Each time I place my trust in Him, looking to His character rather than my circumstances, He shows me once again how good and trustworthy He is.

So today I am reminding myself that I will trust in the name of the LORD my God.


Best Job in the World

Ok – I’m not looking to change jobs, but if I was I’d want a job like this.

SYDNEY (AFP) – An Australian state is offering internationally what it calls “the best job in the world” — earning a top salary for lazing around a beautiful tropical island for six months.

The job pays 150,000 Australian dollars (105,000 US dollars) and includes free airfares from the winner’s home country to Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland’s state government announced on Tuesday.

In return, the “island caretaker” will be expected to stroll the white sands, snorkel the reef, take care of “a few minor tasks” — and report to a global audience via weekly blogs, photo diaries and video updates.

The successful applicant, who will stay rent-free in a three-bedroom beach home complete with plunge pool and golf buggy, must be a good swimmer, excellent communicator and be able to speak and write English.

“They’ll also have to talk to media from time to time about what they’re doing so they can’t be too shy and they’ll have to love the sea, the sun, the outdoors,” said acting state Premier Paul Lucas.

“The fact that they will be paid to explore the islands of the Great Barrier Reef, swim, snorkel and generally live the Queensland lifestyle makes this undoubtedly the best job in the world.”

Click below to read the full article at:
Yahoo News

 


FIRST Tour: Shadow of Colossus

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book’s FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

 Today’s Wild Card author is:

T.L. Higley

and the book:

 Shadow of Colossus

Broadman & Holman Publishers (August 1, 2008)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

T.L. Higley holds a degree in English Literature and has written three previous novels, including Fallen from Babel, and more than fifty drama productions for church ministry. A lifelong interest in history and mythology has led Tracy to extensive research into ancient Greece and other myth systems, and shaped her desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past. She lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and four children.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details: List Price: $14.99 * Paperback: 400 pages * Publisher: Broadman & Holman Publishers (August 1, 2008) * ISBN-10: 080544730X  * ISBN-13: 978-0805447309

My Thoughts:  I just got this book on Tuesday and with the holidays I didn’t get a chance to start it until last night.  I am only a third of the way through the book, but I was immeditatly drawn into the story.  It is well written and the characters are intriguing.  I look forward to discovering how the plot unfolds.  I’m already planning on getting the other books that Higley has written.  Enjoy the first chapter below. 

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Rhodes, 227 bc

Seven Days Before the Great Quake

In the deceitful calm of the days preceding disaster, while Rhodes still glittered like a white jewel in the Aegean, Tessa of Delos planned to open her wrists.

The death of her body was long overdue. Her soul had died ten years ago.

Ten years this day.

Tessa took in a breath of salty air and shivered. From her lofty position outside Glaucus’s hillside home, she watched the populace’s torches flicker to life in the dusk. Across the city the day’s tumult at the docks slowed. The massive statue of Helios at the harbor’s frothy mouth caught the sun’s last rays as it slipped into a cobalt sea. The torch he thrust skyward seem to burst aflame, as though lit by the sun god himself.

He had been her only constant these ten years, this giant in the likeness of Helios. A silent sentinel who kept vigil as life ripped freedom and hope from her. Painful as it was, tonight she wanted only to remember. To be alone, to remember, and to mourn.

“Tessa!” A wine-sodden voice erupted from the open door behind her.

The symposium had begun only minutes ago, but Glaucus was already deep into his cups. Bad form in any company, thought Tessa, but Glaucus rarely cared. Tessa inhaled the tang of sea air again and placed a steadying hand against the smooth alabaster column supporting the roof. She did not answer, nor turn, when she heard her fat master shuffle onto the portico.

“Get yourself back into the house!” Glaucus punctuated his command with a substantial belch.

“Soon,” she said. “I wish to watch the sun god take his leave.”

A household servant crept out and set two torches blazing. An oily smell surged, then dissipated. From the house floated harsh laughter mingled with the tinny sound of a flute.

Glaucus pushed his belly against her back and grabbed her arm. The linen chitôn she’d taken care to arrange perfectly fell away, exposing her shoulder. She reached to replace it, but Glaucus caught her hand. He brought his mouth close to her ear, and she could smell his breath, foul as days-old fish.

“The others are asking for you. `Where is your hetaera?’ they say. `The one with more opinions than Carthage has ships.'”

Tessa closed her eyes. She had long entertained Glaucus’s political friends with her outspoken thoughts on government and power. While his wife remained hidden away in the women’s quarters, Glaucus’s hetaera was displayed like an expensive pet with sharp teeth. Tessa had once believed she led an enviable life, but the years had stripped her of her illusions.

She stroked the polished filigree of the gold necklace encircling her throat and remembered when Glaucus fastened it there, a gilding for his personal figure of bronze.

“Now, Tessa.” Glaucus pulled her toward the door.

Her heart reached for the statue, clinging to her first memory of it, when Delos had been home and innocence had still been hers.

When I open my wrists, I will do it there.

Ω

The andrôn, central room of the men’s quarters, smelled of roasted meat and burning olive oil. Glaucus paused in the doorway, awaiting the attention of those who had curried enough of his favor to be invited tonight. When the small crowd lounging on low couches at the room’s perimeter turned his way, he pushed her into the lamp-lit center. “Tessa, everyone,” he shouted. “Making a grand entrance!”

The room laughed and clapped, then returned their attention to the food and wine on the low tables beside them. In the corner, a young girl dressed in gauzy fabric blew thin streams of air into a small flute. Tessa’s eyes locked onto the girl’s for a moment. A private understanding passed between them that they were both objects of entertainment, and the girl looked away, as though ashamed to be seen so clearly. A desire to protect the girl surfaced in Tessa, a maternal feeling that of late seemed only a breath away.

Glaucus pulled her to a couch and forced her down onto the gold-trimmed red cushions. He lowered himself at her right and leaned against her possessively. A black bowl with gold designs waited in the center of their table, and Glaucus ladled wine from it into a goblet for her. To the room he said, “To Tessa—always the center of attention!” He raised his own cup, and his guests did the same.

Tessa’s gaze swept the room, taking in the majority of men and the few women reclining against them. The moment was suspended, with cups raised toward her, drunken and insincere smiles affixed to faces, lamplight flickering across tables piled with grapes and almonds and figs, and the flute’s lament behind it all.

Will I remember this night, even in the afterlife?

“To Tessa!” Shouts went round the room, cups were drained and thumped back to tables, and the party quickened around her.

Glaucus reached for her, but she pushed him away. He laughed. “It would appear my Tessa is a bit high-spirited tonight,” he said to the others. “And what shall be done with a mischievous hetaera?” His thick-lipped smile and raised eyebrow took in the room and elicited another round of laughter. He nodded, then turned his attention to the man on his right, resuming a conversation whose beginning she must have missed.

“Your objections earlier to the naturalization of the Jews are noted, Spiro. But to extend citizenship to the foreigners among us can often be expedient.” Tessa could not see Spiro, his frame completely blocked by the bulk of Glaucus beside her, but his voice poured like warm oil. Yet underneath his smooth tones, Tessa heard the cold iron of anger. He was one of few among the strategoi to contradict Glaucus publicly.

“Like-minded foreigners, perhaps,” Spiro said. “But the Jews make it no secret that they despise our Greek ways. They disdain even our proudest achievement, our Helios of the harbor. They must be expunged, not embraced by weak-willed politicians who—”

Glaucus raised a pudgy hand. “You presume an authority not yours, Spiro.”

“Only a matter of time, Glaucus.”

Glaucus snorted. “Again you presume. The people of this island are too clever to choose seductive charm over solid leadership.”

Spiro laughed quietly. “Why, Glaucus, seductive charm? I didn’t realize you had noticed.”

Glaucus shook his head. “Perhaps the women are affected, but it is the men who vote.”

Tessa sensed Spiro lean forward, his eyes now on her. “And we both know where men find their opinions.”

Glaucus snorted again and swung his legs to the floor. It took several tries to raise his ponderous body from the cushions. “Get drunk, Spiro. Enjoy your delusions for one more night. But next week I sail to Crete, and I expect them to fully support my efforts.”

He nudged Tessa with a sandaled toe. “Don’t go anywhere. I will be back.”

Tessa watched him leave the room, relief at his temporary absence flooding her. She was to travel to Crete with him next week, though she had no intention of ever stepping onto the ship.

The previously unseen Spiro slid to her couch now, an elbow on the cushion Glaucus had just vacated. He was older than she, perhaps thirty, clean-shaven like most of the others but wore his jetblack hair longer, braided away from his face and falling just above his shoulders. His eyes, deep set and darker than the night sea, studied hers. A smile played at his lips. “What are you still doing with that bore, Tessa? You could do better.”

“One slave master is as another. To have something better is only to be free.” She was not truly Glaucus’s slave in the usual sense, and Spiro knew it, but it made little difference.

Spiro smiled fully now, and his gaze traveled from her eyes, slowly down to her waist. He took liberties, but Tessa had long ago become heedless of offense.

“That is what I like about you, Tessa. One never meets a hetaera who speaks of freedom; they are resolved to their place. But you are a woman like no other in Rhodes.”

“Why should I not be free?”

Spiro chuckled softly and inched closer. “Why, indeed? Ask the gods, who make some women wives and give others as slaves.”

Spiro’s hand skimmed the cushions and came to rest on her thigh. “If you were mine, Tessa, I would treat you as the equal you deserve to be. Glaucus acts as though he owns you, but we all know he pays dearly for your favors. Perhaps it is you who owns him.” Spiro’s fingers dug into her leg, and his eyes roamed her face and body again. Tessa felt neither pleasure nor disgust, a reminder that her heart had been cast from bronze. But a flicker of fear challenged her composure. Spiro, she knew, was like one of the mighty Median horses: raw power held in check, capable of trampling the innocent if unleashed.

A shadow loomed above them, but Spiro did not remove his hand. Instead, he arched a perfect eyebrow at Glaucus and smiled. Tessa expected a flash of anger, but Glaucus laughed. “First, you think to rule the island, Spiro, and now you think to steal Tessa from me, as though she has the free will to choose whom she wants?” Spiro shrugged and moved to the next couch.

Glaucus plopped down between them again. “She will never be yours, Spiro. Even when I am dead, her owner will only hand her to the next man in line to have paid for her.” He waggled a finger at Tessa. “She is worth waiting for, though, I can tell you.” Another coarse laugh.

Something broke loose in Tessa then. Caused perhaps by the vow taken while drinking in the sight of the harbor’s bronze statue, and the assurance that soon nothing she did now would hold consequence for her. Or perhaps it was ten years of bondage, commemorated this night with nothing more than continued abuse.

Whatever the reason, she rose to her feet. The room silenced, as though a goddess had ascended a pedestal. She lifted her voice. “May the gods deal with you as you have mistreated me, Glaucus of Rhodes. I will have no part of you.”

Glaucus grabbed her arm. “Your heart is not in the festivities tonight, my dear. I understand. I will meet you in the inner courtyard later.”

He did this to save face, they both knew. Tessa wrenched her arm free of his clutches, glanced at Spiro, and felt a chill at the look in his eyes. She raised her chin and glided from the room.

In the hall outside the andrôn, she looked both directions. She had no desire to stay, yet the world outside the house was no more pleasant or safe for her. She turned from the front door and moved deeper into the house.

The hallway opened to a courtyard, with rooms branching in many directions. Along the back wall, a colonnaded walkway, its roof covered with terra-cotta tiles, stretched the length of the courtyard. A large cistern gaped in the center. Beside it stood a large birdcage; its lone inhabitant, a black mynah with an orange beak, chirped in greeting.

Glaucus had said he would meet her here later, but from the sounds of the laughter behind her, the party raged without her. She should be safe for a few minutes at least. She crossed to the bird she had adopted as her own and simply named Mynah. Tessa put a finger through the iron bars and let Mynah peck a hello.

Her head throbbed, as it always did when she wore her hair pulled back. She reached above her, found the pin that cinched her dark ringlets together, and yanked it. Hair loosed and fell around her, and she ran her fingers through it in relief.

A sharp intake of breath from across the room startled her. She whirled at the sound. “Who’s there?”

A soft voice in the darkness said, “I am sorry, mistress. I did not mean to startle you.”

Tessa’s heart grasped at the kindness and respect in the voice, the first she had encountered this evening. She put a hand to her unfastened hair. Somehow she still found it within herself to be embarrassed by this small impropriety.

The man took hesitant steps toward her. “Are you ill, mistress? Can I help you in some way?” He was clean-shaven and quite tall, with a lanky build and craggy face, Glaucus’s Jewish head servant, Simeon.

“No, Simeon. No, I am not ill. Thank you.” She sank to a bench.

The older man dipped his head and backed away. Tessa reached out a hand. “Perhaps—perhaps some water?”

He smiled. “I’ll only be a moment.”

She had disgraced Glaucus tonight, in spite of his effort to laugh off her comments. How would he repay the damage she had done him? His position as a strategos of the polis of Rhodes outranked all other concerns in his life, and he would consider her disrespect in the presence of other city leaders as treasonous.

In the three years since Glaucus had paid her owner the hetaera price and she had become his full-time companion, they had developed an unusual relationship. While he would not allow her to forget that she was not free, he had also discovered her aptitude for grasping the intricacies of politics, the maneuvering necessary to keep Rhodes the strong trading nation that it was, and to maintain Glaucus’s hold on leadership within this democratic society. Power was a game played shrewdly in Rhodes, as in all the Greek world, and Glaucus had gained a competitive edge when he gained Tessa.

Rhodian society had declared her to be a rarity: beautiful, brilliant, and enslaved. But the extent to which the decisions of the city-state passed through her slave-bound fingers was unknown to most. And in this she held a measure of power over Glaucus. She recalled Spiro’s astute comment earlier: Perhaps it is you who owns him.

Simeon returned with a stone mug in his hands. He held it out to her and covered her fingers with his own gnarled hand as she reached for it. His eyes returned to her hair. “I—I have never seen you with your hair down,” he said. He lowered his gray head again but did not back away, and his voice was soft. “It is beautiful.”

Tessa tried to smile, but her heart retreated from the small kindness. “Thank you.”

He didn’t look up. “If you are not ill, Tessa, perhaps you should return to the symposium. I should not like to see Glaucus angry with you.”

Tessa exhaled. “Glaucus can wait.”

Another noise at the courtyard’s edge. They both turned at the rustle of fabric. A girl glided into the room, dressed in an elegant yellow chitôn, her dark hair flowing around her shoulders. She stopped suddenly when she saw them.

“Simeon? Tessa? What are you doing here?”

Simeon bent at the waist, his eyes on the floor. “The lady was feeling ill. She requested water.” His eyes flicked up at Tessa, their expression unreadable, and he left the room.

Tessa turned her attention to the girl, inhaling the resolve to survive this encounter. At fourteen, Persephone hovered on the delicate balance between girl and woman. Glowing pale skin framed by dark hair gave her the look of an ivory doll, but it was her startlingly blue eyes that drew one’s attention. In recent months, as she had gained understanding of Tessa’s position in her father’s life, Persephone had grown more hostile toward her.

She raised her chin and studied Tessa. “Does my father know you’re out here?” Her tone contradicted the delicacy of her features.

Tessa nodded.

“So he let his plaything out of her cage?”

Tessa’s eyes closed in pity for the girl, whose mother had abandoned her for the comfort of madness.

The girl flitted to where Mynah cheeped inside its bars. She picked a leaf from a potted tree and held it out to the bird. “But who am I to speak of cages?” she said. She raised her eyes to Tessa. “We are all trapped here in some way. You. Me. Mother.”

“Cages can be escaped,” Tessa said, surprising herself. She had never dared to offer Persephone wisdom, though her heart ached for the girl.

Persephone turned toward her, studying her. “When you find the key, let me know.”

“Tessa!” Glaucus’s voice was thick with wine and demanding.

Tessa turned toward the doorway. The girl beside her took a step backward.

“There you are,” he said. “I’ve sent them all away.” He waddled toward them. “I am sick of their company.” He seemed to notice the girl for the first time. “Persephone, why are you not in bed? Get yourself to the women’s quarters.”

Tessa could feel the hate course through the girl as if it were her own body.

“I am not tired. I wished to see the stars.” She pointed upward.

Glaucus stood before them now, and he sneered. “Well, the stars have no wish to see you. Remove yourself.”

“And will you say goodnight to Mother?” Persephone asked. The words were spoken with sarcasm, tossed to Glaucus like raw bait. Tessa silently cheered the girl’s audacity.

Glaucus was not so kind. “Get out!”

“And leave you to your harlot?” Persephone said.

In a quick motion belying his obesity, Glaucus raised the back of his hand to the girl and struck her against the face. She reeled backward a step or two, her hand against her cheek.

Tessa moved between them. “Leave her alone!”

Glaucus turned on Tessa and laughed. “And when did you two become friends?”

Persephone glared into her father’s corpulent face. “I despise you both,” she said.

Glaucus raised his arm again, his hand a fist this time, but Tessa was faster. She caught the lowering arm by the wrist and pushed it backward. Glaucus rocked back on his heels and turned his hatred on her.

Tessa kept her eyes trained on Glaucus but spoke to the girl, her voice low and commanding. “Go to bed, Persephone.” She sensed the girl back away, heard her stomp from the room.

The anger on Glaucus’s face melted into something else. A chuckle, sickening in its condescension, rumbled from him.

“High-spirited is one thing, Tessa. But be careful you do not go too far. Remember who keeps you in those fine clothes and wraps your ankles and wrists in jewels. You are not your own.”

But I soon will be.

Glaucus reached for her, and she used her forearm to swat him away like a noisome insect. “Don’t touch me. Don’t touch her. Take your fat, drunken self out of here.”

The amusement on Glaucus’s face played itself out. The anger returned, but Tessa was ready.

Glaucus’s words hissed between clenched teeth. “I don’t know what has come over you tonight, Tessa, but I will teach you your place. You belong to me, body and spirit, and I will have you!” His heavy hands clutched her shoulders, and his alcohol-soaked breath blew hot in her face. Every part of Tessa’s inner being rose up to defend herself.

It would all end tonight.


Thanksgiving

I am giving thanks today for many, many things.

I posted my Thanksgiving morning beach photos on my Flickr account
(here)

Below is a song of Thanksgiving and Praise:

If you can’t see the media player in your browser, click here to listen.

Here are some of the lyrics of the song:

I give you praise, O great invisible God,
For the moon in the space of the dark night,
For the smile on a face in the sunlight,

I give you praise, O great invisible God,
For the sound of the storm on the window,
For the morning, the dawn on a new snow,
For the tears on the face of the old man,
Made clean by the grace of the good Lamb.

Invisible God,
And Oh, I long to see your face, invisible, invisible God
All the works that you have made
Are clearly seen and plain as day,
So mighty and tender
Oh Lord let me remember.
I see you everywhere, invisible God.

In the seed that descends to the old earth,
and rises again with a new birth.
In the sinner who sinks in the river,
And emerges again, delivered.

Invisible God,
And Oh, I long to see your face, invisible, invisible God.
All the works that you have made
Are clearly seen and plain as day,
So mighty and tender
Oh Lord let me remember.
Oh, your power eternal,
Your nature divine.
All creation tells the tale,
Your love is real and so alive…